Our Gospel reading for today begins with a feeling of despair. The hope of Jesus being the Messiah, the promised one who came to redeem and deliver his people Israel died a brutal death. Even though Jesus sought to prepare his followers for this reality, they could not conceive or believe that the promised Messiah could die.
Cleopas and his companion are in mourning as they walk along the road to Emmaus. They have left Jerusalem and are commiserating among themselves about their dashed hopes. Even though they received word that Jesus had risen, they left Jerusalem! They did not believe he was alive, but that he was still dead. How could he be who he claimed to be if he had died? Now what were they to do? They were not only walking in the wrong direction, away from Jerusalem, but also not believing Jesus’ words that he would rise again on the third day. Jesus met them in the midst of their travail and wove his way into the conversation and their journey.
When the time for them to part arrived, Jesus motioned to them that he was going to continue on. The pair of disciples urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over” (Lk 24:29). Jesus did just that and he revealed himself to them “in the breaking of the bread”(Lk 24:35).
The account of the road to Emmaus has significant relevance for our own spiritual journey. How many times have we had an inaccurate understanding of Jesus in such a way that we felt let down? Have we domesticated Jesus, or limited who he is, seeing only one aspect of his totality, attempted to shape or conform him into our image and likeness? Have we prayed for something and then that petition or intention was not fulfilled in the way we had hoped? Have we sought Jesus and felt that he wasn’t there for us in our time of struggle or during those times that we felt that we needed guidance?
We need to remember that Jesus is the Son of God and we are not. He meets us as we are, accepts us as we are, walks with us even when we are walking in the wrong direction, but he also calls us to be more, to actualize the fullness of our potential according to the plan of his Father. That means stretching us beyond our comfort zones, urging us to let go of our safety nets and training wheels. Jesus invites us to nothing less than being transfigured by entering into the participation of Trinitarian Love. This begins when we resist withdrawing into and curving in upon ourselves, and instead are willing to be loved and to be expanded outward beyond ourselves to love in return.
A good practice this Easter season is to spend time meditating on the wonderful daily readings of the Acts of the Apostles and the Gospels, so as to allow Jesus to set our hearts aflame, like Cleopas and his companion. As this pair returned to the community of Jerusalem, let us gather together each Lord’s Day, in person or whatever technological means we can access if we are not able to attend in person, to hear his word proclaimed until we all can return again to experience him revealed in the breaking of the bread in our worship together in the celebration of the Mass.
As we put into practice what we hear and receive, we too will begin to: see Jesus more active in the midst of our everyday activities, recognize him in our daily events and even the interruptions that arise, be more inspired to share the sacrificial love we have received from Jesus with those in our realm of influence, and come to realize that Jesus is among us, closer to us than we are to ourselves. We just need to allow him to walk with us on our journey, even when we are heading the wrong way, just like Cleopas and the other disciple did on the road to Emmaus. When we invite Jesus into our lives God will happen. Alleluia!!!
Painting: Road to Emmaus, Robert Zünd, hanging in our campus ministry offices at Cardinal Newman HS.